Bibivirus Claims New Victim; Gantz on Life-Support

Israel is confronted by two lethal viruses: the coronavirus pandemic and an infectious leader who, like the corona variety, needs his influence to be replicated in living organisms for him to survive in power. The social distancing that is currently in force has done nothing to prevent the spread of the second virus.

The latest organism to provide healthy cells for the consumption of the bibivirus is Benny Gantz, who has spent the past year assuring whoever would listen that he was totally, 100 percent dedicated to keeping his distance from it.

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Democracy: The Next Corona Victim

The coronavirus pandemic is holding up a mirror to all our illusions.

We thought that economies could grow relentlessly, without paying a price. That we could travel whenever and wherever we want without polluting the atmosphere. That the rich could grow ever richer, without being impacted by the poverty they cause. That globalization would bring only the benefits of cross-border trade, not the disadvantages.

And now that we’re cowering at home from the dreaded virus, who do we turn to for succour, bail-outs, sound advice? To our governments! The very institutions that created the problems in the first place, through their dereliction of health services, their kowtowing to the super-rich and the powerful, their incompetence and their corruption.

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When Bibi Met Corona: A Love Story

Some commentators are calling it a putsch. Personally, I think that’s a little over the top, though future developments may prove me wrong. Certainly, the recent actions of the Israeli government – with Benjamin Netanyahu, the indicted conman, at its head – raise serious questions about its commitment to legality, let alone democracy. There is every indication that Netanyahu is piggybacking on the coronavirus outbreak to ensure his personal future, whatever the cost.

All governments are taking extreme measures in the face of the pandemic – measures which, in different circumstances, would be considered anti-democratic, if not totalitarian. Netanyahu’s government can’t be faulted on that count (though his hubristic conduct in announcing the measures on TV was undoubtedly a violation of good taste.)

Where Israel differs from other states is in its lack of a stable government – Netanyahu and his cabinet have been serving in an acting capacity for the past year – and in the person of its prime minister. Not only is Netanyahu an indicted suspect, awaiting trial on corruption charges, but he has failed to establish a majority government after each of the last three elections – all in the space of one year, of course. Netanyahu, to put it simply, has no popular mandate.

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Searching for a Racist Majority

The widespread assumption that Israel’s third election in the past year resulted in yet another hung parliament is wrong.

The non-stop chatter in the media over who Netanyahu will bully, browbeat or bribe in order to build a majority coalition misses the point entirely.

Look at the arithmetic. There are 120 seats in the Knesset, therefore a minimum of 61 is required for a majority. Netanyahu and the bloc that supports him has 58 seats, which means that the opposition has a majority of 62.

That’s not a hung parliament; the majority can form a coalition government any time it wants to. It can send Netanyahu to his date with the court in 10 days’ time as a regular citizen, shorn of his title, post and influence; one of us.

There’s no political problem here. What there is, of course, is racism – racism that is so pervasive and so deep that we don’t even recognize it when we see it; racism that has been around so long it looks normal. Our regular, comfortable, everyday racism.

The 62-seat majority includes 15 seats in which, God forbid, Arabs are sitting. Real Arabs – the sort who aren’t Jewish. They have the vote, they participate in elections – we even allow them, out of the goodness of our hearts, to sit next to us in the Knesset. That’s us, generous to a fault.

But, as Netanyahu so adroitly put it yesterday, “Arabs aren’t part of the equation.” Why, being citizens, voters and so forth, aren’t they part of the equation? “Because that’s the will of the people.”

Hang on: the will of the people is represented by the majority, surely? – which right now includes 15 Arab seats. Doesn’t that make them party to the will of the people?

Nope, the “people” in Israel means the Jewish people. Not being Jewish, Arabs can’t represent the will of the people. Arabs are non-people. They have no will. We were in that position once: a non-people with no will. Now we’re Jewish and democratic.

And let’s not fool ourselves that this Jewish racism is confined to Netanyahu and his allies on the right. It’s not only them who can’t even conceive of sitting in a government with Arabs. The racists de jour are on the so-called center-left; the generals who deign to dip their toes into political waters in order to set us straight.

It’s all those of us who say that Netanyahu is dismantling the country’s legal system, defiling our public life and generally leading us to hell in a bucket. We’d love to get rid of him, of course – we dream of it – but not if it means working with Arabs. Not if it means opening our eyes.

You can lead a Jew to water but you can’t make him think.